News Tuesday, JULY 21st, 1998

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Radio Prague e-news Date: 21.7.1998 Written/read by: David Vaughan

Hello and welcome. I'm David Vaughan. First a bulletin of Czech news.

Zeman Moves into New Office

The handover of power to the new Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, became a reality yesterday, as Mr Zeman began his move into the government headquarters in Prague. Former Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky has already moved temporarily into a nearby government villa. The musical chairs continued as another ex-Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus, moved into Mr Zeman's old office, after taking over Mr Zeman's former position of parliamentary chairman. The new government is to be officially appointed tomorrow.

Tosovsky Back to Bank

President Havel's office has confirmed that the President is to re- appoint the outgoing Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky to his former job as head of the Czech National Bank on Wednesday. Mr Tosovsky left the post when he was appointed caretaker Prime Minister after the fall of Vaclav Klaus's government at the end of last year. There had been widespread speculation that Mr Tosovsky would choose not to return to the post, but at the end of last week he made it clear that he would like his former job back.

New High Court Chief

The President's office has also announced the name of the new head of the Czech Supreme Court, to take over from Otakar Motejl, who is to join the new government as Justice Minister. The new appointee, Eliska Wagnerova, is a Supreme Court judge, and spent many years as an emigre in Germany and Canada.

The appointment of her predecessor Mr Motejl as Justice Minister has come as a surprise in many circles, because he is not associated with any political party, but on Monday it was precisely this fact that drew praise from a top Czech lawyer from the European Association of Judges, Jan Vyklicky. He said that Mr Motejl's independence will be a very positive signal abroad.

Crown Up Again

The Czech crown reached new highs this morning, despite continued attempts by the Czech National Bank to keep its level under control. Early on Tuesday it broke the symbolic barrier of seventeen-and-a-half crowns to the German mark. The strength of the crown at levels which are widely considered to be artificially high, is putting growing pressure on Czech exporters.

New Minister's Plans

The new Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, has said that he plans changes in the running of the ministry. He said that his model will be the British Foreign Ministry, where the distinction between civil servants and political appointees is clearly defined. He added that he plans personnel changes in the ministry, but that this will not amount to a "purge". Mr Kavan also said that he respected the decision by Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman not to appoint him as a deputy prime minister. The reason given by Mr Zeman was that Mr Kavan's credibility had been undermined after he caused a car accident earlier this year while under the influence of alcohol.

Small Parties to Join Forces

The two smallest parties in the Czech parliament, the right of centre Christian Democrats and Freedom Union, have decided to work more closely together. The Christian Democrats' deputy leader, Jan Kasal, said on Monday that his party and the Freedom Union will not stand against one another in any of the constituences in this autumn's elections to the upper house of parlaiment, the Senate. The move comes after the two parties' hopes of joining the new government were scuppered by the deal reached between the Social Democrats and the Civic Democrats of former Prime Minister Klaus.

Outgoing Minister on Europe

The outgoing Foreign Minister, Jaroslav Sedivy, has said that the Czech Republic has set a date of the first of January 2003 to complete its preparations for European Union membership. He added that the date is nothing more than a goal, and that it may take a year or two longer before the country joins the Union.

Outgoing Minister on Romanies

The outgoing minister responsible for national minorities, Vladimir Mlynar, has called on the new government to work up a long-term policy strategy to help the Romany minority. He said that without such a strategy - which would also influence decision-making in other ministries - any attempts to improve the position of Romanies would be sporadic and unlikely to succeed. He added that he hoped the Social Democrats would put into practice the idea circulating within the party of increasing the power and influence of the government commission for national minorities. Mr Mlynar's successor, Jaroslav Basta, told Czech Television last night that he broadly shared Mr Mlynar's views.

Lorry on Charles Bridge

Locals and tourists in central Prague came in for a shock on Monday morning, when the Swiss driver of a huge articulated lorry lost his way and started to cross the narrow medieval Charles Bridge - which has not seen any traffic for several decades. The lorry got as far as about half way across, much to the consternation of the crowds, before staff at the Renaissance tower at the end of the bridge made the driver stop. Police gave him an on-the-spot fine of a thousands crowns, and the driver then reversed back down the cobbles the way he had come.

Weather

And finally a glance at the weather...

It's another very hot day with temperatures between 32 and 36 degrees Celsius, hovering around record figures for this time of year, but with a cold front coming in from the west, we can expect showers and thunderstorms on Wednesday and Thursday, and we might even see the odd hailstone.

And that's the end of the news.